Making The Connection

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By Devin Olsen

Better techniques for connecting fly line to leader.

I remember when the first welded loops became standard on most fly lines. I was working in a fly shop and guiding summers at the time. I always asked shop customers if they wanted me to leave the loop on or have me add a butt section that they could tie their leaders to— standard practice prior to loops. Almost everyone told me to leave the loop intact. I would silently cringe a little bit and wish them well on the water. Why would I cringe, you ask? After all, what could be easier than looping your leader to your line?  Two reasons: 1. Loops further chipped away at the knot tying self-sufficiency I think is lacking in the fly fishing world. Even shop hands didn’t have to learn how to tie a nail knot after loops arrived and it’s a skill that’s nearly disappeared among the general fly angling populace. 2. Loops are pretty terrible at sliding through guides smoothly.

However, welded loops certainly have their place. For instance, they are an absolute godsend when switching sink tips on Skagit heads for Spey fishing. They can also be perfectly fine when fishing a short streamer leader when your line never enters your guides after it’s pulled through at the beginning of the day until you break down your rod when you’re done fishing. However, for the rest of my fishing, the first thing I do when I get a new fly line is cut the loop off straightaway. I’ve seen lots of fish broken off with light tippet when a loop to loop connection has caught a guide. You know, that run the fish always takes as a last gasp when you try and slide it in the net. I’ve also seen plenty of new casters get incredibly frustrated when they can’t get line out their rod tip to begin their cast. We’ve all seen the awkward 10 false casts when there could be one or two. There’s a definite loss of efficiency when this is the case. And while most situations don’t require it, when you are fishing gin clear smooth water to ultra-spooky fish, the loop to loop connection can spook a few extra fish because its extra mass lands on the water a little bit harder and pulls off with a little extra disturbance.

My aversion to loop-to-loop connections became even greater once I started using long French style leaders for European nymphing. With this technique, my fly line-to-leader connection goes in and out of the guides every single cast. I also use a micro thin European nymphing specific fly line typically with lightly weighted tungsten nymphs. This leaves little mass to load the rod and pull the line connection through my guides so a smooth connection becomes absolutely critical. Without it I make extra false casts and I’m robbed of casting distance when shooting line.

After watching our recently released instructional film Modern Nymphing: European Inspired Techniques, I’ve had a lot of viewers contact me about how I make a smooth fly line connection since we didn’t have time to add connections in the film. It’s easiest to answer the question visually, so I put together a couple of quick tutorials on how I do it with monofilament and braided core fly lines (certainly not in the realm of cinematography of our filmmaker Gilbert Rowley!)

Blood Knot Connection for Monofilament Core Fly Lines

When using a monofilament core fly line, you can certainly connect your line and leader with a nail knot. However, I’ve found that a blood knot covered with a little UV resin provides a smoother connection. To accomplish this, I strip the coating off of the last few inches of fly line and tie the exposed core to my leader. You can see the process in the video below.

Superglue Splice for Braided Core Fly Lines

I first learned about superglue splicing leaders to fly lines from reading a Dave Whitlock article back when I was in high school. I’ve used them on and off since. While I probably wouldn’t saltwater fish with them, I’ve never had a fish pull one apart, and that includes using them for steelhead. I’ve had a total of two come out (that I can remember) when I wrapped the butt sections of leaders around a tall tree branch and had to break off. In general, they are very strong if they are fairly fresh. I try and redo a splice every three months if I haven’t replaced the leader by then. Most of the time a hard tug at the beginning of the day will let you know if the splice is still good.

To splice your line to leader you’ll need superglue and a couple diameters of sewing needles with the larger one a bit wider than the butt section of your leader. I’ve had my best success with old school Krazy glue or with Loctite superglue. You can see the process in the video below.

I hope you’ll give one or both of these connections a try based on the cores of the fly lines you own. I know they will increase your efficiency on the water. If you don’t know what type of core your fly line has it’s easy to strip a bit of the coating off the end of your fly line and check by using the same process as I use in the blood knot connection tutorial.

Devin Olsen
Gink & Gasoline
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16 thoughts on “Making The Connection

  1. Might I suggest to your writer that he learn to tie better knots and then he won’t have problems with his knots sliding through his line guides. Well tied knots will hardly ever “hang-up” in the guides.

    I appreciate his tenacity at trying to get others to tie better knots which I completely agree with, but cutting off the loop on the end of a fly line is really self destructive. At a cost of $100.00 or more per premium line I am completely in favor of making that line last as long as possible.

    Today’s lines are computer designed and produced, every time you cut a little off, you are contributing to the early demise of that line by defeating the design which will make it much more difficult to turn over correctly at the end of the cast which will most certainly hurt your presentation. Once you cut off more than 8 inches or so that line may be almost useless.

    Line loops are designed to not only to make leader attachment easier, but also to aid in floatation on the tip of the line. Rather than allowing water to wick up the line causing the tip to sink which will also interfere with your presentation.

  2. Teach people to not get the loop-to-loop connector into the guides, or to pull it through before beginning a casting cycle if it does. A nail knot can hang up too.

  3. I absolutely despise the welded loops on fly lines and have been looking for a smoother connection between fly line and leader. This is perfect, I’ll be trying both methods in the near future.

  4. You are going to get some negative comments on this article, but I think it is absolutely spot on. I use long leaders a lot, so those welded loops are gone!

  5. While I understand wetieit’s hesitation to cut a loop off, I think in the video it was clearly stated when fishing long leaders this is a necessity.

    I would personally tie in a short butt section of maxima or amnesia which would facilitate connection of many leaders over a season, and also minimize number of times I cut off lengths of fly line.

    Also, if I were worried about fly line wicking up water I’d coat that connection with flex seal or uv.

    Great tutorials if you want to find another way to fish with long leaders and want those connections to smoothly enter/exit your guides.

  6. A bit of a wipe of sand paper on that bitter end of the mono prior to the supper glue will make that connection all the more reliable.
    Also some fly lines just are a pain to thread through trying to push the mono backwards. You can thread with a needle going through the hole/tube you made as shown but back from the side hole and out the end point first on the needle and thread the finer tapered end of the leader through the eye and pull through to the butt end for the glue up.

  7. There’s a practical compromise that avoids the problem of bumpy, guide-jamming connections. Attach a butt section of thick (about the same diameter as your leader butts) mono to the end of the fly line, with a perfection loop at the lower end. Make it three – six feet long, enough so that the looped mono butts stay outside the tiptop during normal retrieves. Fasten the butt to the line tip with an inserted nail knot: sharpen the upper end of the butt with a razor blade. Insert a small bodkin or larger needle a half inch into the line tip, then out through the side. Tie a nail knot in the butt, loosely around the line; slide it down to just above the side hole, then pull the nail knot tight with pliers. Coat it with suitable glue. It’s as strong as the line tip, and goes through the guides with very little interruption.

  8. Needle nail knot in a braided core line.. Takes some practice but is a strong and fairly low profile connection. I can retie a leader to the butt section eight or more times (depending on the length of the butt section). Good for a year at least. Each time I replace the butt section it takes less than one inch of fly line. So, assuming the fly line can be cut back no more than eight inches (debatable depending on fly line taper), the fly line is good for eight years. I generally replace my fly lines more frequently than every eight years. Not a fan of loop to loop connections, no matter how well they are tied. I do use loop to loop connections on Saltwater lines which are generally monofilament core. The blood knot line to leader connection as described in the article sound interesting.

  9. Some observations that may be helpful: Loop-to-loop connections at the line-to-leader junction as well as at the leader-to-tippet connection are problematic because they create a “hinge” effect while casting (especially long casts into the wind); they create a wake on the water which can spook fish; and they can collect more weeds and flotsam than a well-tied nail knot or blood-knot connection. I’ve had large tarpon turn off at the last second because of the wake caused by a loop at the line-to-butt junction.
    However, I always use a loop-to-loop connection to connect the backing to the back end of the fly line. It greatly speeds up the process of changing lines and/or cleaning them.

  10. To make the loop to loop connection compressed and thinner so that it slides smoothly through the guides, I have used the vinyl adhesive, flexible portion of a band-aide to wrap around the connection. If pulled tight, the connection is very streamlined. The adhesive appears to be waterproof. To remove it, I have had to use a bodkin and a thin pointed scissor. No damage to fly line or leader.

  11. For the superglue splice there’s a simpler and stronger method I use. Instead of a normal sewing needle use a machine sewing needle that has an eye at the pointy end. Once you’ve pushed the needle through the core of the fly line as in the video, you just pass the thin end of your leader through the needle hole and pull it back through the core of the fly line. Then just slide the leader through the fly line core to the leaders base. Before applying superglue, burn the but off the leader to create a tiny blob which is bigger than the rest of the butt of the leader just to make sure it doesn’t slip through the core of the fly line. Don’t make the burnt mono blob too big though to keep it smooth.

  12. Pingback: Making The Connection- Saltwater | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

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